(National Sentinel)Â War Preparations: Satellite photos taken earlier this week show a large fleet of Chinese naval vessels including an aircraft carrier, destroyers and submarines sailing in the South China Sea.
As reported byÂ The Sun, the carrier,Â Liaoning, is accompanied by as many as 40 ships and appears to be conducting combat exercises.
The photos, provided byÂ Planet Labs Inc., show what some experts say was an unusually large number of Chinese warships in one fleet.
Beijing said the large exercises were are part of routine annual drills,Â The Sun noted, citing aÂ Reuters report.
The exercises come less than a week after President Xi Jinping declared that the country is prepared for war to maintain its great power status.
Image: Reuters (Used with permission)
The drills also come on the heels of a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, his first foreign visit since taking power in 2011. That meeting comes ahead of a planned summit between Kim, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, and U.S. President Donald J. Trump.
The fleet was not properly deployed for combat, experts noted. But the presence of the carrier with such a large number of support vessels was noteworthy to many experts.
“Thatâ€™s the big news to me. Confirmation that, yes, the carrier participated in the exercise,”Â Jeffrey Lewis, a securityÂ expert at the California-based based Middlebury Institute of Strategic Studies, toldÂ The Sun.
Collin Koh, a security expert at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, described the deployment to The SunÂ as unusual for its size and scope.
“Judging by the images, it does seem they are keen to show that elements of the South Sea Fleet are able to routinely join up with the carrier strike group from Dalian in the north,” he said.
“It does seem they want to show inter-fleet interoperability – something the (Chinese) navy has been quietly working on for some time,” he added.
TheÂ LiaoningÂ has previously entered the South China Sea for drills, but not accompanied by so much supporting combat power.
In recent days, the vast Chinese Coast Guard, which had been under civilian control, was transferred to the control of the Central Military Commission, which answers directly to Xi, who is the military’s commander-in-chief.
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